It was one of the most iconic ads ever and spanned four decades – The Milk Tray man made sure that the lady always got her chocolates. Brian Stormont found out more about the commercial that accompanied one of our favourite boxes of chocolates.
A mysterious James Bond-style man dressed in all black avoiding danger at every turn to deliver something of vital importance to a woman.
Sounds like something from a spy novel, but, no, he did it all because the lady loves Milk Tray!
Bursting on to British TV screens in 1968, the adverts for one of Cadbury’s longest-running brands featuring the Milk Tray man are iconic.
High Street debut
The tray part of the brand’s name came from the way in which the chocolates were originally delivered to the shop – being packed in 5½lb boxes and laid out in trays to be sold loosely to customers.
From its debut on UK High Streets in 1915, Milk Tray has continued to prove popular with consumers and the brand still sells eight million boxes a year.
The range of chocolates included in the box has evolved as tastes have changed and among those to be found in the box these days include apple crunch, salted caramel charm and a surprise parcel.
And there was also a spin-off when Cadbury’s created the Milk Tray chocolate bar in the early 1970s.
It featured several of the chocolates from the box shaped together into a bar and favourites included lime cordial and the strawberry centre.
Who could resist something that was described as: “Each a different island in a chocolate sea…”
The Milk Tray men
Remarkably, for such a long-running advert, only four men have performed as the mysterious man who delivers the lady’s box of chocolates.
The first Milk Tray man was actor Gary Myers who performed the role between 1968 and 1984.
He was followed by James Coombes who became the man in black in 1987 and Alan Riley assumed the role in 2003.
The last man to don the black jumper was firefighter Patrick McBride in 2016 who won the role ahead of 20,000 other hopefuls.
Featuring in a £3 million campaign for the much-loved chocolates, his mission to deliver the lady her box of Milk Tray was set in the Altai Mountains over the Mongolian steppe.
The death-defying stunts involved flying sequences, a Mongolian tribe and a stampeding yak!
James Bond has, in fact, had a connection with the adverts with many of the stunts being carried out by stuntmen who appeared in Bond movies.
Sean Connery’s stunt double in Goldfinger, Alf Joint, and Martin Grace, who doubled for Roger Moore in the movies, both performed stunts for the commercials.
The iconic music that accompanied the advert is called “Night Rider” and was composed by Cliff Adams who also wrote the music for the Fry’s Turkish Delight commercials.
When a list was compiled of the greatest television ads ever in 2005, the Milk Tray man was ranked at number 11 in the top 100.